Burnout: Control out of Chaos in the age of COVID

Burnout: Control out of Chaos in the age of COVID

When a pattern is not seen, then chaos is perceived.

I was invited by PeerVoice, an international medical newsletter from Luxembourg, to write about the psychological pattern of adaptation to crisis and perceived chaos. While the duration of psychological stages may be different amongst individuals, there is a predictable pattern of psychological reaction to crises. You can read the details in my article.

In the mist of a crisis, anxiety rapidly rises because the circumstance are novel and unfamiliar. “We haven’t seen this before. It’s different than before.” You hear words like “unprecedented” that seem to convey we don’t know what to do because we’ve never seen this before. Crisis begets anxiety, anxiety perceives chaos, and chaos has no predictability.

To gain control and thereby reduce anxiety, one needs to see a predictable pattern in the chaos. For that predictability, I submit the premise of my article-a predictable psychological reaction to crisis. Regardless of the specific circumstances of the crisis, the stages of psychological adaptation are the same. In that way, we have a sense of what we need to do today, what we can anticipate for tomorrow, and what we need to plan for next week.

Understanding that the seeming psychological distress is simply a series of stages to be experienced in sequence, predictability is introduced to perceived chaos. With time, you emerge from the “tunnel” with a new set of psychological skills to weather the next crisis.

In my article, I reference a study from China and the psychological stages the health care workers went through when dealing with the COVID-19 patient care demands. It seems to be a universal human experience and very important to understand.

When patterns are seen, chaos is nonexistent.

David W. Goodman, M.D.